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Old 29-04-2009, 21:45   #1
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turn-key vs. fixer-upper

One thing has become very apparent to me in our current market. Buying a fixer-upper is not worth it. This of course is my opinion. It just seems the price of many boats now is so lower a person could not possible fix a boat up for a the cost of buying a decent boat already to use.

I guess what I'm saying is the cost of boats have come down but the labour materials and parts have not dropped so it makes no sense to buy a fixer-upper.

Just my 2 cents worth.

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Old 29-04-2009, 22:11   #2
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I would think that would be off set by the loss of income that a lot of people have experienced. As well as the cost of fuel.

Last summer, in my marina, there were only a selected few that even took their boat out of their slip due to the cost of fuel. And I've noticed the price of a decent sailboat hasn't really dropped, just the cheap or un-maintained ones are either abandoned or given away.

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Old 30-04-2009, 00:30   #3
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The price of parts hasnt dropped so a fixer-upper will be the same cost as a year ago. A non-fixer may have dropped in price
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Old 30-04-2009, 01:51   #4
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It may depend on one's personal situation...

While some boats could never be restored to blue water condition whether others are suitable can depend on the personal situation of the owner.

Some factors:-
1) Is there a good cheap (or free) work area close by to where the owner lives. Possibly a backyard or area beside their house.
2) Is their personal situation such that they have personal commitments (family), but a large amount of free time.
3) Do they have a steady reliable income stream (a good job).
4) Are they technically competent.
5) A suitable project boat is available.

It should be kept in mind that even the best of boats need some sort of improvement or maintenance. With a new 45' yacht climbing above the $400k mark (more for a "reputed" cruising yacht) bringing a boat back to comparable to new condition is feasible on a limited budget.

Provided the hull/deck is sound enough and the boat has a good level of basic equipment and a good internal fitout and is generally accepted as suitable for cruising and provided factors 1 to 5 above are applicable it can be feasible.
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Old 30-04-2009, 04:05   #5
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"Fixer-upper" and "turn-key" are relative terms, are they not? Every boat is a fixer-upper to some extent.

I would never buy a project boat, even if it was a steal. I like to sail. I don't like to sand, paint and clean.

The best buy is probably a "mimimalist" boat in very good condition. The more fully loaded the boat is (with electronic gizmos, water makers, furling systems, electric winches and all the rest) the more you have to maintain.
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Old 30-04-2009, 04:47   #6
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If you can find a well found yacht which is sail away and at a good price I would go that route and you will inevitiably be re fitting things to suit your needs. But you will be able to learn that because you can sail the boat from the get go.

Refits are expensive in time and materials. And unless you enjoy doing this, and many do, a project boat at a steal is not a wise move. But complex boats will have more things to fail, fix and maintain. Look for a boat which is not too old or exceptionally well maintained.
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Old 30-04-2009, 05:44   #7
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I made this mistake....

First boat we bought was a project. Just about every system aboard needed attention and we of course found some surprises as we addressed the issues. It was a friggin nightmare, caused lots of relationship stress, and we never EVER felt completely comfortable at sea on her because we knew how much was yet to be repaired. Even going in to it with low expectations for the boat, it failed to meet those.

Even though I am capable of making most of the repairs we needed it was a time consuming ordeal that really - and I mean REALLY - sapped our enthusiasm for boating. There was little motivation to go out for a day / weekend sail because we knew the boat would give us trouble.

Fast forward a few years and now some other 'handy' sailor is dealing with our old project boat. We spent more money and got a boat that today has a 1/2 page work list that represents less than $500 in repairs. We just spent 2 weeks coastal hopping while enjoying a working boat, frozen food, ice for margaritas, a rig that works and a no-worries anchoring system.

Which experience would y'all rather have?

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Old 30-04-2009, 06:21   #8
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Originally Posted by Solosailor View Post
Buying a fixer-upper is not worth it.... I guess what I'm saying is the cost of boats have come down but the labour materials and parts have not dropped so it makes no sense to buy a fixer-upper... Just my 2 cents worth.

For most of us, your 2-cents is right on the money; however, I’d say that fixer-uppers by their nature should not take into account much on the labor-cost side – largely since amateur labor is a mandatory ingredient of a fixer-upper because as things get too far away from a DIY project, it will get way expensive in a hurry… The notion of looking at a minimally equipped vessel is sterling… by the time any serious fixer-upper is actually ready to get wet again, most of the technogizmos will either be dated or of questionable reliability.

Unless a skipper just wants to learn new maintenance/boat-building skills or already has the skills and enjoys the sense of accomplishment that comes from that sort of thing, a fixer-upper can become a marina flowerpot in a hurry… If one is wed to the notion of fixer-uppers (I pretty much am…), then simple is good and the project should require a minimum of new skills… then it can be both cost effective and fun, but it won’t be quick… the minute I must “hire” out the work it is no-longer fun, and usually not cheap either… as was said, if one doesn’t like varnishing, sanding, filling and fairing, along with occasional rerigging, restitching and structural repairs, a fixer-upper will probably be far more frustrating (and expensive) than fulfilling… of course, that might be said of sailing in general, too…

Worry: misuse of imagination…
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Old 30-04-2009, 06:40   #9
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I met a couple at my marina some time ago. They had cruised the islands on a Sabre 36. They spent three years cruising on that boat and just loved it. Upon return, they sold the Sabre and decided to get a larger boat, because they just loved the life so much.

They bought a Gulfstar 47, cheap, if you can call close to 90k cheap and estimated 70k to get her to 100% and back out sailing. I met them 3 yrs into that project and knew them for 2. After they got into the boat, they found many more things wrong and decided to go deeper into their pockets to make it a great boat. They gushed up 100k the time I first met them and were not even close to done. The boat still needed a rig, peal and seal, paint job and was complete apart....including the joinery. It was still a bare hull. They had spent every single weekend working long hours on this boat. Two yrs after that...they were still there, still pouring money into it...but not working too many weekends on it....I think they had had enough of "cruising."

If you want to work like a day laborer, for less than minimum wage while blowing A LOT of after tax CASH, buy a fixer upper. If you want to sail and take a nice woman sailing with you...get a boat that sails. You will still spend every weekend working on it...but only a few hours, not full time every day.

Just some anecdotal information, doubtless someone has done well doing this. My 0.02 would be not to. depends on the fixing up that has to be done. There is a big difference between just repowering a boat, or redoing the joinery or just the electrical system and completely refitting an entire boat.

Hope this helps

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Old 30-04-2009, 06:52   #10
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"Fixer-upper" and "turn-key" are relative terms, are they not? Every boat is a fixer-upper to some extent.
So very true. Brand new boats can take 9 months to show all the warranty problems. An old boat make new problems while you sleep. The new boats do too but they start out slower not knowing just how as well as a trained boat.

Boat works takes a very long even for experts. It's very easy to do a poor job and work really hard at it and think it was done well only to stab you in the back. You need a very large amount of time to spend fixing up a boat yourself. It's the only way possible to do it less expensively.

If you get a list of boats boiled down go with the one in better shape and always exclude the worst one no matter the price. For a cruising boat in decent shape expect to spend an extra 20% minimum getting it really ready. If it less than that some times 50% can be the final number. Smaller boats will always have a higher percentage. 1970's boats probably need everything.
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Old 30-04-2009, 07:22   #11
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I have been in the market for a small trailer boat that I can tow up to lakes to take my wife, son and friends fishing or inner-tubing. My intent from the beginning was to buy a used boat, not a new boat. My thinking too was that used boats are always the better deal.

In comparing prices though, I found out that new boats that have been sitting on the dealers lot have been significantly discounted. Not just few percent, but in the case of the boat I am going to buy, almost 40%! I looked on Craig's list, YachtWorld and a few other classified boat websites but still could not find a better deal with a used boat. The dealer said that without incentives from SeaRay, they they would be losing money on the boat. I really could not find a better deal with a used comparable boat. So this weekend my wife and I are going to buy a 2008 Searay 185.

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Old 30-04-2009, 07:58   #12
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I just lost my huge message trying to answer this. DAMN! I clicked on "Go Advanced" and all my work disappeared; so I'll try again, I think this is that important.

We bought a project boat. Paid 90k to get it to a lot we rented. We budgeted 30-60k for the work. (This was the second time we had done this having build a Westsail 32 from a bare hull years before. So we felt pretty good about the time frame and the numbers) We planed on 3-5 years. It took almost 7 years and we spent 200K for the work. We worked on it like a job. We put 30 man hours / week on her during the working part of the year; since we worked for the school system; summers and breaks we put over a 100 man hours / week in it. That is the wife and I. We hired a retired marina owner for 6 months over 3 summers. That added to the cost. I doubt I could recouped even close to 200k for the boat.

But; we know the boat, we have all new rigging, new electrical, new electronic, newly painted deck, mast, booms, pedestal. Every system has been thoughly gone through. There were some things we hadn't planned for. We didn't think we needed an electrice windlass; till we realized that we could be OLD hauling up the anchor. We were conviinced we needed a water maker as I continued to read that water was getting to be more of a precious resource in the world. All systems work and some need yet a little more tweaking.

Even if we could have bought a new boat; I don't think it could be as good as this one. One year we went to the Miami Boat show (research) and we're on a 48' or there abouts. I'm installing dorades so I wanted to see how their dorades were installed. I reached in to feel around. I cut my hand on some fiberglass that had cured but been hanging free. This was on a million dollar semi custom boat. I know I don't have any gotchas like that.
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Old 30-04-2009, 08:13   #13
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I bought a Cal 39 a year ago. It was not a project boat but was in need of a lot of upgrading as I wanted to go blue water sailing. I would have rather bought a newer, better equipped boat but budget set limits and I got the "best" I could afford.
I just wish that I could have get her up to grade at the 30%-50% that PaulB describes but it is beginning to look more like 100% of the purchase price will be closer to reality.
I think fiscal reality is always the engine that drives peoples choices and probably always will be. In the meantime, I will continue to poor money and sweat equity into her...eventually, I will get out there but in the See you outhere...someday.
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Old 30-04-2009, 08:20   #14
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Perhaps we should divide "fixer-uppers" into two groups. One is sail-able, as is, and the other is a yard queen. Using this division, a sail-able fixer-upper might be a good deal. I got a Westerly, that had been sitting for a few years, for nothing. I think I went thru about four 55 gallon drums of Clorox cleaner over several weeks, but that wasn't all that bad. The inboard Volvo was DOA so I hung an outboard on the back and went sailing. Unless it is, in some way, a very special boat and you have a little money and a boatload, pun intended, of time on your hands, the yard queen doesn't make much sense. Even if you get it for free, you often spend hundreds of dollars just getting a title to your new "dream."

I don't know if it fits in this thread, but, in my mind, the question is "how much fixing up is really necessary?" I know there has to be room for all kinds of people and my opinion on things is simply my opinion, but when I hear of people who have to finish replacing system after system before they can leave, I wonder if they really want to go. When I run out of ice I drink my rum neat. I really only worry when I run out of those little paper umbrellas. If you require all the comforts of home - just stay home. I don't want to listen to your generator running all night anyway.
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Old 30-04-2009, 08:41   #15
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I havent done a major refitting in about 9 years, but I have been doing some stuff last year and this year and I'm amazed how much more expensive marine parts and supplies are now..... I mean it's huge.... It seems sailboat blocks have become an artform for the well to do collector only!

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